JOEY JAY

Backstage at  Stacy’s @ Melrose  getting ready to perform at  The Queer Agenda .

Backstage at Stacy’s @ Melrose getting ready to perform at The Queer Agenda.

DJ-Paul-12.jpg

I am gay. I am a gay man [and] Tri-sexual.

I don’t know [exactly what that means]. I’ve done things that aren’t gay. I have had sex with a woman. I was already out of the closet. We thought it would be fun. I mean, sex is sex. I would do it again, but I don’t consider myself bisexual because I don’t see myself being romantic with a woman. There are a few trans friends that I have where I have been like, I think I could get into that! But that’s pretty rare- that’s not usual for me. I was talking to a friend of mine about it and I was like, “Hey! I think I’m totally into that person!” and they were like, “Live your life.

If we’re gonna look at it just on the surface, I am gay and to me- because there could be so many meanings and so many ways for so many people- but for me, I’m gay which means I am sexually attracted to the same gender. Now, if you wanna go a little bit deeper, I think I grew up at the perfect time to be gay. Even though the political climate right now is a little bit shaky, pretty dark and it can be very offensive. Right now, from my perspective, I also think being gay is kind of trendy. You’re looking at Target billboards and kids wearing the unicorn backpacks to school with no fear. Little kids that became little makeup superstars on Youtube are being asked to walk at Fashion Week in New York City. There’s a whole side [of it] right now that’s trendy. So, when you’re gay and you’re out and some people might disagree, but I think you’re a political statement. But when I’m out in public and I’m loud and proud about being gay, I want people to recognize that or see that I’m not the most masculine person- and I’m a drag queen- but if they can see me comfortable in my own skin, I want them to know that if they can see that I’m doing ok, that they can as well. It took me a long time to be comfortable with myself.

There are those gender norms like masculinity and femininity.

Growing up, I’ve always been feminine, and I’ve always been so self-conscious about that. I’ve [also] always been self-conscious about my voice. It was one of my biggest insecurities ever. The first “ah-ha” moment I had was in Las Vegas and I met this guy- this couple- they’re so nice, they’re from Australia. We started talking about something similar. Like, gay? You don’t sound gay! And I’m like a little Barbie doll. I’m like, what do you mean? And they’re like, you sound American. I was like, holy shit. If I move to Australia, that stigma is gone. I’m not feminine anymore. It’s just in my head. I think if you are self-conscious and you show that you’re self-conscious, it only amplifies. So, if I wanna get over how I sound, maybe I should talk on a mic more. People told me they like my drag! If I keep associating my insecurities with people enjoying them I think I might be able to come around.

[Being comfortable with myself] is really recent. Maybe like a couple years. I think drag is what did it. Drag is the extreme. If you think about it, it’s like the “no no”. It’s like, you’re pushing the envelope as far as you can go. You’re not just a gay man anymore, you are dressing up as the opposite sex, you are tucking your penis in between your legs, and you’re getting paid to do it.

I don’t know why I started doing drag to be honest.

I am a dancer and I’ve helped out queens a lot. But doing drag has definitely really helped me be very comfortable in my own skin. When I’m dating people- I’m very open about it and I tell them right away. “What do you do for a living?” is such a common question. And I’ll say, “oh I work for a software company and I’m also a professional drag queen.” And depending on their response depends on if I’m gonna go on a date with them! If they’re totally taken aback, that’s totally fine. It’s not for everybody. But if we go a little bit further, like if they start asking questions about it like ‘oh, how long have you been doing it?’ Or ‘what made you want to do that?’ That’s usually where it starts. But if that turns into, ‘well do you have fun doing it? Where do you perform?” I know they’re totally open to learning about it. And they can decide if they’re into it, but maybe they wanna learn a little bit more. I know that it’s a path we’ll need to walk down. If they’re instantly turned off by it or negative about it, well you just saved me $50 on a dinner date.

Backstage at  Stacy’s @ Melrose  getting ready to perform at  The Queer Agenda .

Backstage at Stacy’s @ Melrose getting ready to perform at The Queer Agenda.

DJ-Paul-7.jpg

I grew up really, really lucky. My mother- she was the fag hag of her time.

I grew up with a single mom. She had me when she was 20 years old. She was on disability. She can’t work a full-time job because her doctor says she can’t. She has a panic disorder. And she somehow raised me to put myself in a political limelight, representing my entire community about acceptance. I think that she did a damn good job. She was always at the gay bar. I remember [that] right when I was starting to come out when I was about 17 or 18. I was just about to be finished with high school. I went to the gay bar on an 18 and up night and I met this drag queen who was older, overweight, raspy voice… the scary queen from every city. The “Ursula” [type of] drag queen.

And I go home and I tell my mom about it- which already tells you a lot about my mom. I can tell her about the crazy Ursula drag queen that I met at the bar. And I’m like, “I met this queen and she was blonde and she was scary and she said really dirty things to me”. My mom goes, “Oh, Bradley?!” I was like, “what?” And she goes, “Bradley used to babysit you!” I was like, “WHAT?!” She was like, “Yeah, we used to be roommates”. I’m like, holy shit. I think for me, I’ve learned to be really accepting of people. I’ve grown up without a father figure and I was really self-conscious of that as well. And recently I saw a post on Facebook and it said, “what did your dad teach you growing up?”. And it was a meme and people would post comments of what their dad taught them. And I commented and said, “that women can do everything”.

So, growing up I was taught, you know, you can be whatever you wanna be as long as you do it fully committed. You had to do your work. You can’t just try things and then quit. I had babysitters who were gay and my momma’s friends who were trans. So growing up, maybe I had questions if I was exposed to something new, but it was kind of one of those “don’t know it ‘till you try it” kind of mindsets. We all have different lives and if it works for them it works for them! You’re not in their house. Whatever Pete and Steve are doing down the road, it doesn’t matter. So, I am one of those people where if you tell me I can’t do it, I’m gonna fuckin’ do it! But I wanna do it in a way where you can’t clock it. Like, I’m gonna piss you off, but you can’t come for it. I want it to be as polished as possible. My drag has gotten better, the quality has gotten better, the make up’s gotten better.

I would wear wigs- and I’ll be honest, I hated wearing wigs.

They’re uncomfortable and they’re hot- but one day I bleached my hair blonde. That silver, gray blonde. And I looked at it and just was like, oh my god, I’m gonna do pink! And I’m gonna wear my own hair! And I loved it. I got so much shit for it. Traditional queens all about drag values and drag traditions and then here’s a girl who is making the same amount of money as you, and it could be seen as putting less work in—which is valid. It’s a valid opinion [and] I’m not taking away from it. I didn’t wear a wig. And the girls back home are very pageant-y and a little bit older. Like if you could have conservative queens? That’s what it was!

But if I were to look into a mirror, it would be short hair, Annie Lennox, lesbian chic. I just love that. Annie Lennox, Twiggy… I love all of that. And if you think about all of them, they became famous because they were breaking rules. But they did it in a way where you couldn’t clock it! And now look where they are. You know, the reason that I don’t like the term, “Wig-less Wonder”? If you’re being announced- this is all about illusion- and if you say “Wig-less” and you’re not out there yet, I feel like [the illusion is] taken away already. My favorite thing about performing and kind of doing something a little bit different is the questions that people are asking. And during the performance, "you’re answering all of their questions or validating everything. Like, “what she’s not wearing a wig? But I love the performance, I’m not even thinking about the wig in fact.” I’m enjoying their performance not in drag but as Joey. And when you say, “oh! She’s not wearin a wig!” or, “oh wow! She’s gonna wear a wig tonight!” I’m like, well…The whole two hours that I took to get ready were just taken away.

Highest points of self-discovery…I find myself having moments where I should know better.

Whether it comes to judging someone- judging a book by its cover or coming up with just anything predetermined based on what I see in front of me. I think that drag is helping so much with that, but I’m only human. But I think that drag has helped me to be really accepting of a lot of different kinds of people. There’s so many different types of drag. I do think that all drag is valid because it’s an art. If your drag is different, some people will say that you’re not really doing drag or you’re not good at drag and that’s a real thing. I think you see it the most when you’ve got pageant girls versus like, alternative girls because the techniques are so different! And I try to do both. I try to do stuff from all sides. And I think of it like this. If you’re painting a picture, you’re doing art, all art is valid. Now, you can go to school and major in art. There’s technique. If you are a girl who doesn’t pad, doesn’t wear wigs, has a beard. Just like, the things that will people kind of do a double take on you and you decide to run for a pageant- don’t tell me that you’re not gonna learn anything. And maybe if you learn how to pad and you learn how to wear a wig- is that gonna take away from your skill set? No. It’s just gonna add to it. If you’re learning all the Romantic languages and you decide to learn Chinese- is you learning Chinese gonna hurt your other languages? No, it’s only gonna help you.

Backstage at  Stacy’s @ Melrose  getting ready to perform at  The Queer Agenda .

Backstage at Stacy’s @ Melrose getting ready to perform at The Queer Agenda.

DJ-Paul-13.jpg

One of the lowest points [in my journey] was when I used to live in Milwaukee.

I lived there for six years and it was six years too long. I never enjoyed my time in Milwaukee. I had a very hard job that was very time consuming and it was definitely a lifestyle over than anything else. I grew this animosity towards Milwaukee. I thought the people there were shady. I thought they lied, I thought there was always drama, and I could never escape it. Because it’s a smaller community than Phoenix. My last year there I was really, really negative. I [just] “did me”. No fucks, I’ll say what I want. And that didn’t get me anywhere. It wasn’t until I moved here—this [city] has a really great community. I moved to Phoenix to teach Ballroom. I didn’t wanna teach anymore because I have a bad knee. I wear a brace. I usually wear a brace when I’m performing. But I try to wear enough tights that you can’t really tell. I thought I was gonna move into studio ownership and just, things didn’t work out. Things were taking a lot longer than I thought and next thing you know I was just doing the same thing that I didn’t wanna do and I called it quits. I said, you know what? I’m gonna make myself a priority. I’m not gonna do this for you anymore. I’m gonna do what I need to do and take care of myself. And now I work for a software company and I love it!

But it wasn’t until I moved here that I looked back and I was like, wow. I was really upset. I was seeking other things to make up for my happiness. Like, I knew I wanted to leave, I couldn’t leave, I couldn’t afford to move. I finally was able to move until my work moved me out here. Which means that I would either get reimbursed or they were gonna pay for some of it and that was when I was finally able to leave but I felt stuck. So, I started doing drugs, I went out all the time, I would sleep in, I’d miss work. I was just this negative Nancy, but everything was fine. I didn’t even notice. And then finally I moved out here and within about six months, Phoenix put me in this boot camp of like, wow. These people that I’ve never met before are genuinely excited to see me and say hi to me and come to shows. I wasn’t even gonna do a lot of drag out here. I think that was my low point was my ending years in Milwaukee because [I thought] I was a nice person but what I thought in my head was not [actually] nice.

[being gay/tri-sexual taught me] to grow a thick skin. it’s kind of like a sink or swim mentality.

It’s hard in the beginning. I would keep [drag] a secret. Like, if I would go on Grindr I would not post it. And then I decided, hey. Maybe I’m ready for a relationship. Well, maybe I’m gonna put a link to my Instagram. And I’ve gotten some really hateful messages on it. But I’m like, well, I’m not even into you anymore. Like, “I wanna have sex with you, but you’re a tranny who should die. But can I still have sex with you?” Well, now you’re not into them. So, it’s kind of like, well. Now I’m gonna save gas, I don’t gotta drive to your house. My drag isn’t like, big hair, pageantry… I’ve been told that I’m an attractive guy, I’m in shape, I’m young. And so, if I’m getting these messages, imagine what some other people are getting as well. And they’re still doing it? Every night? And making a living off it? Or becoming famous from it? Like, I don’t have it hard at all. And if I’m getting messages that are hateful like that on a regular basis, imagine what they get. But they’re still persevering. Like, bow down. Props to all of them. That’s why I’m so open about it because I know other people are going through the same shit. Or worse. And I’m totally fine talking about it because they might go, “well if he can talk about it, so can I”.

Some queens hate those “cis” gay men who are “ignorant” who- you’ll be on Grindr and you’ll be into them and they’ll be like, “oh, will you be my drag mom?”. And it’s like, no! I’m totally into you but at the same time, a lot of these girls don’t like RuPaul’s Drag Race because it’s changed drag and now it’s mainstream and now it’s lost its authenticity. But you have these people who would have never been into it but because of Drag Race and watching it they became inspired. They’re getting in touch with their feminine side, they’re putting heels on and going to parties, they’re doing terrible drag, and they’re living their life. Who am I to tell them that they can’t do that? And now they’re asking me questions and now they’re curious and now some of them are starting to do drag. Like, yeah, some drag is mainstream, Drag Race, and it’s changed, but everything is gonna keep changing. Embrace it? They’re still going to the gym, but they’re wearing their drag queen tank tops- I love that. It just says ok, maybe you don’t want to be the drag mom but let’s look big picture. You’re taking a 6’4” masculine guy who plays for the NFL- asking you to be their drag mom. Like, you should be happy.

[My advice to someone new to the spectrum is] don’t keep anything a secret- rip it off like a Band Aid.

Everyone has demons, and everyone has stories and I have an easy story. I grew up with a very accepting family who has embraced me, who loves me, and you can’t control who your parents are. But you can control who your chosen family is and if you can find someone that you can talk to, who can hear your story, and you learn that you’re not the only one who has that story- it makes things so much easier. You’re not doing it all by yourself because you can’t. I don’t care what you’re talking about, no matter what it is, it takes a village. Share your story, hear other people’s stories, and there’s someone for everybody. I was so insecure about drag and my femininity with dating, and recently there’s been people that I’ve been seeing who have been coming to up to me asking me what’s my next costume? Hey, you should perform to this song! Would it be weird if I came to the show with my friends? Like, you know that they’re gonna be a keeper. But I never would have met someone so good hearted like that if I wasn’t embracing myself. And not to be cliché, but RuPaul always says that if you can’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else. And it’s so true. I thought it so cheesy. But now that I’m embracing myself and my femininity and my drag and kind of that “no fucks” but [in] a positive manner, I’ve met the coolest people. I’m a lot less self-conscious. I’m much more happy. I sleep better at night. And if they’re like, “oh you do drag? I’m not gonna [have anything to do with it]” You’re like, look at these thousands of other people that are. You do you boo. That’s great. Embrace it. And, you know, if you come back and you decide to change your mind, come back, come join the crowd. We have a ball! 

CLICK BELOW TO CONTINUE YOUR JOURNEY